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Hatfield legacy lays groundwork for Oregons future

Friends remember former senator as a man of conviction
by: L.E. BASKOW Former U.S. Sen. Mark O. Hatfield died Sunday after battling illness for some time. He was one of the longest serving senators in history and was the senior Republican in the Senate when he retired in 1996.

From where he's sitting, 91-year-old Forrest Soth of Beaverton can see Mark O. Hatfield's legacy all around him.

Soth, former Beaverton City Councilor and the city's historian, has seen Hatfield's hand in a lot of things that helped build Washington County's economy - and the state's economy - over the past 50 years. That includes transportation systems and the region's electronics industry.

'His influence was region-wide,' Soth says, ticking off Portland's light-rail system stretching from Gresham to Hillsboro, expansion of Oregon Health and Science University and efforts to lay the foundation for Oregon's high-tech industry in the 1960s as projects Hatfield supported and sometimes inspired.

'You can't isolate one particular area,' Soth says. 'His influence and regional, statewide attitude influenced everyone, and it benefited everyone in this state as a result - even though it might not have been known at the time.'

Hatfield, one of the longest- serving senators in U.S. history, died Aug. 7 in Portland. He was 89.

Hatfield served the state of Oregon first as a Marion County legislator in 1951 and later as the youngest governor - elected at 36. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1966 and was the senior Republican in the Senate when he retired in 1996.

Hatfield's death brought an outpouring of accolades from friends, family members and politicians who worked with him for decades. It also reminded people that the former governor's work could be seen throughout the state.

'Sen. Hatfield played an enormous role in making Oregon what it is today,' says U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Portland Democrat who worked on Hatfield's Washington, D.C., staff. 'His hands were at work in the development of so many institutions we treasure as Oregonians.'

What made Hatfield so popular, however, was not necessarily what he got done, but how he did it.

'He was the essence of bipartisanship. He was always working with his own party and the Democrats to get things done,' says Kerry Tymchuck, executive director of the Oregon Historical Society. 'He was the original Hatfield Republican.'

Former Gov. Victor Atiyeh of Tigard, who was elected to the Legislature in 1958, the same year Hatfield became governor, says his friend's legacy of bipartisanship is still relevant.

'Mark stands in sharp contrast to what is going on in Washington now, and that's good,' Atiyeh says. 'People will begin to say, 'Hey, how come my guys aren't like that?' Even in his passing he is an important person.'

Compassionate to the end

That term - Hatfield Republican - has been used to describe a moderate Republican who is willing to reach across party lines to forge compromises on even the most difficult issues.

'Sen. Hatfield was never one to be driven by party affiliation or ideological litmus tests,' says U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Portland Democrat. 'He was religious but not intolerant; idealistic but not naïve; a politician but not partisan. He was willing to stand alone, but never one to grandstand.'

One of the biggest issues that faced Hatfield during his tenure was the ongoing war between conservationists and the state's growing timber industry.

'Mark was very knowledgeable on the importance of the timber industry within the state and the jobs it involved, but he was also very motivated to keep Oregon the beautiful place that it is, being that he was a native son,' says longtime aide Gerry Frank.

While Hatfield was definitely an ally of the timber industry, a great example of his ability to find the middle ground was his work to create the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in 1986. Bowen Blair, executive director of Friends of the Columbia River Gorge at the time, remembers the opposition Hatfield faced throughout the process.

'He told us that if we built an army of diverse citizens, he would help lead that army,' Blair recalls. 'And time and time again we found powerful opposition from a senate chairman or from the presidential office, but when Sen. Hatfield chimed in, he was able to use his power to ultimately prevail.'

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act was the only new public land bill approved during the Reagan administration.

Ronald L. Tammen, director of Portland State University's Hatfield School of Government, says Hatfield's 'footprint is statewide.'

'There is not a corner of the state that he did not provide a benefit for,' Tammen says.

Hatfield was born to a Democratic father and Republican mother July 12, 1922, in Dallas, Ore., before moving to Salem early in his childhood. Hatfield graduated from Willamette University before entering the Navy to serve during the World War II.

Hatfield earned his masters degree in political science from Stanford University and began his foray into Oregon politics.

After serving as both a state representative and state senator, Hatfield became Oregon's youngest secretary of state in 1957 at age 34. Just two years later, Hatfield became governor, a position that he would hold for two terms.

'Next to my father, there was no man that I loved or admired more than Mark Hatfield, and he left us each with a wonderful gift of our most cherished impression of him,' says Lake Oswego resident Mary Hart, Hatfield's longtime secretary. 'Because of him, I am a better citizen and better friend.'

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood says he and Hatfield were 'political soul mates for half a century.' Packwood remembers working on Hatfield's first legislative campaign and being a student at Willamette when Hatfield was the school's dean of men and a fraternity brother who often went easy on rule-breakers.

'He was compassionate then. He was compassionate to the end,' Packwood says.

A man of vision

In many respects, Oregon Health and Science University's medical school is the greatest achievement of Hatfield's political career. As a state senator, he sponsored the original legislation that created it. As a U.S. senator, he secured hundreds of millions of dollars for its facilities and programs.

OHSU is among the largest employers in the state and a well-known Portland landmark.

In 1951, when Hatfield was elected to the Legislature from Marion County, Oregon did not have a teaching health care university. Instead, students were taught in local hospitals throughout the state.

Hatfield co-sponsored the bill that created OHSU in 1955. He was inspired in large part by the poor health conditions he had seen as a Navy lieutenant during action in World War II's Pacific Theater.

In the mid-1980s, as chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, Hatfield continued his commitment to OHSU. During the next decade and a half, he steered about $314.5 million in federal funds to OHSU and the nearby Veterans Administration Hospital. The OHSU Foundation often matched the funds, doubling the value of his work.

The money helped OHSU construct and expand 13 buildings on its Marquam Hill campus. They include: Doernbecher Children's Hospital; the Vollum Institute for Advanced Biomedical Research; the School of Nursing; Basic Sciences Division building; Neurosensory, Ambulatory Research and Education Centers; the Oregon Hearing Research Center; the Casey Eye Institute; the Biomedical Information Communication Center; and the sky bridge to the VA hospital.

'Sen. Hatfield was a man of conviction and vision who left his mark on many of us here at Oregon Health and Science University,' says Joe Robertson, OHSU president.

In 1998, OHSU honored Hatfield's contributions by naming its new Clinical Research Center after him. Two years later, Hatfield joined the OHSU board, where he was supportive of the university's plans to expand to South Waterfront, the site of new buildings and a coming satellite campus connected to Marquam Hill by the OHSU Tram.

Hatfield's commitment to health improvements extended well beyond OHSU, however. Among other things, he fought hard to fund the National Institutes of Health. Its Clinical Research Center, in Bethesda, Md., is also named after him.

Forrest Soth says he will miss Hatfield's statesman-like approach to solving problems and overcoming political obstacles.

'From my perspective, Mark Hatfield is the kind of person we need today in both the Senate and the House, because Mark Hatfield is a true statesman,' Soth says. 'We don't see any in the (current) House or Senate that could take his place.

'Today, it's mostly 'Me first!' Mark Hatfield was certainly not that kind of person. He'll be greatly missed by everybody in this state.'